Saturday, July 31, 2010

To Home School or not?

Everybody has different reasons for home schooling. As unique as each family is I don't think there are two families who have entirely the same reasons. In fact, what I have found is that as you experience more of the home schooling life your reasons change. And this is a good thing!

hanging up the washing

So why are we choosing did we choose to home school our children?

There has been no other time in my life when I have learnt more about myself and the Lord than this season we're in right now! When I was teaching, teaching consumed me. It was my life. My busy, all-consuming life. I can look back now on that time and see how the Lord was trying to teach me-but I was too busy to listen! Being in control of how, when and why things happened was the way I kept my sanity.
I didn't want to have a career which took me away from my child. When we chose for me to stay at home with our children I've learnt (slowly but surely) to live life one day at a time. Yes, there is still planning happening here-but I have to choose to not let the plans rule me. I plan, but I need to be open to change. Remembering to never be afraid to listen for that gentle voice which has guided me to let go of so many rules and regulations, is most important for me. Reason number one: Choosing to live life at a slower pace.

clay creations: my roundabout

clay creations: my game

In my final two years of teaching I had two very different classes. My second last year was THE toughest class I'd ever taught. There were so many challenging children with sad little stories that I struggled to teach and maintain discipline in the classroom. My final year was an absolute contrast. Teaching them was a breeze compared to the year before. When I reflected on the possible reasons of why the huge difference-besides my own imperfections that is-I discovered that the first class was largely made up of children from broken families, single parents or struggling marriages. The second class? Stay at home moms, married parents very few single/divorced parents. For me this just confirmed our desire for me to stay at home with our children. Reason number two: Relationships are important, relationships need time to develop and grow, relationships mean investing time in someone.

a few of their favourite pastimes: lego and drawing

Do I always plan to stay at home? Well, I haven't had a desire to go back to teaching, but I'm not sure if it's only for the early years. As Jenna grew I watched her learn so many things through daily living which I had taught children in Grade One. Watching the learning happening in our home environment confirmed what I'd always yearned for as a teacher: learning through life's experiences. Will it always be this way? I don't know. But I sure do like this way for now! Reason number three: Life prepares us for life, learning from everyday experiences can be done!

tea time

And then one day a friend challenged my thought processes: You can't home school out of fear! Ok, time to do some self-reflecting?! Had this little comfortable life of ours become a sheltered haven to protect my children from the world? Yes! Uh-oh, was I really preventing my children from going out into the world because I was afraid of it's influence on them?! Yes, I was. So what was I going to do about this? I did some serious soul searching. What was I really afraid of? The truth? What if they learnt something I didn't agree with and this caused them to not have a relationship with the Lord? It was then that I came to terms with the fact that I am not in control of their lives! I am not their protector. Even if I did send them to school Our Lord would be there to protect them. Ultimately He is in control. So I actually reached a point where I had to admit, sending them to school wouldn't be such a scary thought. If for some reason they had to go, I'd actually feel ok about it.

Until about a month ago....

creating a new game

My beliefs were to be questioned again. Was I really doing what the Lord wanted for this family?

Now if you read that sentence carefully you'll notice one very important word: I.

You see this home schooling journey so far had been mostly mine and our children's. I'd taken on sole responsibility for teaching and raising our children. Yes, Ray and I had talked about home schooling. I'd tried as often as I could to share with him what I was learning from all the research that I had been doing. He never disagreed with what I was doing-he could see our children were learning. He was involved in parenting and even in a lot of the natural learning, he was the best teacher for our kids. But I was the one spending most of the time with them. I was the one involved in most of the training moments. And I expected him to know what to do and do likewise (she says cringing!)

It was me who had the passion for home schooling, me who was driving the dream, me who felt like I was ultimately making the decision. My husband is a laid back type of guy. He lives life day by day facing the challenges as they arise. For me who likes to get things done, make changes, fix the problem this has been one of my biggest learning curves: life does not have to be all worked out! Worrying about tomorrow never solved the problems of today. As he so often tells me: We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Yip, God put two total opposites together because He knew we'd make a great team, if we could just learn to work together! And this is where my challenge with submission came in. How does one submit to someone who takes life a day at a time when you're a planner? (Do you see now why God had to get me to let go of planning ruling me?) To be honest, I can't give you a complete answer, as I'm still learning ;-) But this is what I feel the Lord has said for now: Wait, be patient he's learning too. It's not your job to teach Him-it's mine. And while you wait are you patient enough to let him learn and make his own mistakes? Phew! Not teach? Not fix a problem? Be patient?
Yes, Lord if that's what You think is best, but I can only do it with your help. And that's when the restoration process began when I finally realised I had to let go of telling him what to do with our children and to let him learn for himself. Am I getting it right all the time? No. But my hope is not in me, it's in Christ and trusting Him is what I'm asked to do.
The funny thing is when I do let go and wait patiently for the Lord to teach Ray-he somehow reaches the very conclusion I have but it's usually at the right time for our family. And if he doesn't reach the same conclusion, it's usually a better plan than what I had anyway!

reading in their "castle"

So as I mentioned I started questioning again:
Should we be home schooling? One of the reasons why I asked this question was because I wasn't 100% sure if Ray was agreeing for my sake or not. And so I had to step back and give him time to make a decision.

Jenna will turn six in January. This means she could go to pre-school (Grade R) next year. Is this what Ray wanted? So we visited some Pre-schools-who just happened to be having open days at the time! (How is it that You time things so perfectly, Lord?!)
This experience was quite scary for me. Old fears came creeping back. What if he decided she had to go to school, could I really let go? And then if I didn't send her, what if I was stopping my child from God's purpose for her? Phew! Who was I to stand in God's way! The only way for me to keep myself from worrying was to remember that God is in control. Whatever Ray decided, God was right there with us. School or not, my children are His and He would be their most important teacher and protector. One of the Pre-schools we visited was very impressive: I would recommend it to anyone who wanted their child to get a varied, challenging curriculum. I came to the conclusion that Jenna would easily fit right in. And then the old fear came back: What if they didn't teach her what she really needs to know?
So after a lot more soul searching and discussion with Ray I had to admit that, for the really important things in life, I am not her best teacher. And just as I'd learnt that the Lord taught me through life He can and will do that for her too.
But I still had to wait patiently for Ray to make a decision. And eventually he did.

It took some time. And lots of patience. And then some more time while we discussed and weighed up the reasons for or against schooling/home schooling. I went through a patch of feeling confused and uncertain of my own abilities to home school. But eventually we decided together that as Jen is actually capable of doing most Grade R concepts already we'll try a trial year of following a little more of a structured schooling lifestyle.

And that's what we've been doing.

Ooops, I've digressed from the original topic haven't I? Sorry, I'll have to share a few more reasons with you next time :-)

p.s. I must add that this has been a five year journey-all the letting go of fears and preconceived ideas hasn't happened overnight!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Little Farmers.

The first time we ever planted a vegetable garden we were blessed with seedlings by friends of ours who lived on a farm. This made the whole experience so much easier! Our garden grew quickly and we reaped a good harvest. Ray enjoyed experimenting with his own planting and he planted mealie, butternut, beans and marrow seeds too.

But all good things must come to an end and after enjoying an easy start to the whole veggie garden experience we had soon eaten all our produce and were left again with an empty veggie patch. Maintaining the garden at that time hadn't been easy as well. I had had lofty ideas of the kids getting involved with the maintenance side when in reality they enjoyed the reaping side more! Picking veggies before they were ripe, pulling spinach leaves off for "rabbit" food and pulling off flowers before they had a chance to become fruit was more of a regular occurrence than picking of ripe veggies.

And so my dreams of a veggie patch were shelved for a while.

At the beginning of the year one of my goals was to start one up again. But I just never seemed to have the time! Until one day Jen asked if she could plant her own vegetables! Perhaps this meant we were ready for a second try. I started to plan-I had learnt that having too much of one crop and planting veggies we didn't eat ended in wasted food. So I decided that we'd only plant what we eat regularly and in smaller amounts at first.

Jenna decided she'd like her very own patch. She quickly designated areas for herself and Michael. This got me thinking of an idea I'd once discussed with our friends of their kiddies sharing some of our garden space. And so we invited them to join us too!
Now I know we probably should have waited until the weather warmed up but I figured: while we were all enthusiastic we'd jump right in and hope for the best! After visiting Hart's nursery in Ottery-they sell individual seedlings which means you can get as many as you like instead of the usual six pack-we were ready to start.

Ticha (that's Charity's husband) was very keen to help so we had the man-power necessary for the first stage: compost. We've been adding to our compost heap for a while now and there seemed like enough for our small patch so with his help we added compost to our soil.

It was rainy, hence the rain coats. But that didn't put the kids off. They happily pretended they were farmers getting their field ready.

A little bit of manual labour to warm themselves up in the cold weather.

Finding new ways of turning the soil when the work got too tiring!

The veggies waiting to be planted: lettuce (two kinds), onions, spinach, cauliflower, brocolli and a strawberry plant. Yes, I do know that's not a veggie! But I couldn't resist buying it as last time we'd tried growing strawberries from seeds and they didn't grow. So I thought I'd give myself a better chance of success and bought one that was already showing signs of producing fruit.

Even farmers need to rest sometimes.

We use old tiles turned over in between our patches to walk on. Here the children are putting tiles in between the four patches.

There was so much learning happening through the whole process. Sorting, counting, sharing, problem solving. I love real life maths!

As there were no tomato seedlings we also planted some of those along with a few beans.

Jenna loved the whole experience and got stuck in to all the little jobs to be done.

Michael enjoyed the seed planting the best!

A day or so later Ticha dug another patch for our carrot, butternut and (possibly) mealies patch. But it was all too tempting and the kids just couldn't resist playing in the mud. As we're still waiting for butternut and green pepper seedlings to grow, which we planted in tins, they've taken full advantage of creating little roads and dams in the sand.

What I really enjoyed about planting the veggies was seeing all the learning happening. Jen had asked if we could make signs for her veggies so I came up with a very simple plan. I wasn't sure at first if Michael would be keen to make his own as he hasn't shown any interest in drawing. But he really enjoyed using real vegetables or pictures from the seed packs to copy onto his own signs! I know I should have taken a close up photo of his drawings but if you can take this proud mommy's word for it-they really looked like the real thing! Maybe he'll be like his daddy one day-Ray is really good at still life's.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The pitter patter of little feet.

In the past month or so I've had four friends give birth to new little blessings to their family. It's wonderful to see God growing His nation here on earth! For us it's been a time of questioning again as to whether or not we'd like to add to our family of four. The discussion continues to have no conclusion, but while we wait for a decision we're getting a little taste of what it would be like.

Unfortunately xenophobia is a whispered threat on our doorstep again. With the World Cup coming to an end people started feeling threatened about the availability of work and so threats were made towards our Zimbabwean maid and her community. Charity and her husband have a one year old daughter. It is not unusual for Zimbabweans to work and live here and have their children live at home in Zimbabwe with grandparents. I've had other maids before who have left their children behind because it is a better environment for their children. Sound crazy? Isn't Zimbabwe in the media often for their political problems?
Reality check! We live in South Africa, where although we've come a long way towards freedom for all, there is still poverty and lack of employment. And so having a little baby to protect, Charity and her husband debated whether or not to take her back home. For Charity this would have meant being left on her own while her husband took their daughter and not knowing when they'd come back. As she was the only one with work she would stay behind. But how does one afford the costs of journeying home on the salary of a domestic?
My first reaction was anger! Why couldn't they stay? Hadn't they come here to seek asylum from their own country? Couldn't we as South Africans see that threatening them with violence was just what we had fought so hard to change in our country? We wanted equality-didn't that mean for all? Then I realised that I was talking from a priviledged perspective still. After all I'm not the one living in a shack with no work trying to feed my family. So we were left with what our hearts felt was the only option.
For a while I had been asking Ray if he would consider having Charity and her family live on our property. God has His ways of preparing us. We both need time to make decisions and this made it easier to make it quickly-something we needed to do as time was limited.

And so now we have this precious little girl and her family to play and live and learn with.....

Before the World Cup started there was much debate as to whether or not it would be a good thing for our country. Yes, this may sound like bad news, but I'm still choosing to live in hope that the Lord can use even this for His good!
So far there has been little news of anything serious happening. Although many Zimbabweans have packed up and left there are still some who have chosen to stay.

So while we wait patiently we're enjoying the sound of little feet again!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And in between it all, The World Cup!

I know it's all over now, but I thought I'd share our Soccer World Cup experience with you.

First of all we needed to look like supporters. So we painted South African flags on fabric and I did an easy sewing job stitching them onto yellow shirts-yes I can sew in straight lines! I think my children's Soccer shirts were THE best. OK, I know I'm biased, but hey I'm allowed to be aren't I?
Then Ray decided we had to look authentic too-so he splashed out on shirts for us.

To celebrate the opening of the World Cup we all gathered at our friend's home to watch the opening game. The kiddies had an amazing time watching their parents get all enthusiastic, loud and passionate about supporting their country. They all quickly mastered the Vuvuzela (or Bubuzela as Michael calls it) and had soon created their very own Fan Walk.

Now, I'm not much of a soccer fan so going to a game was never a dream of mine. But it was for Ray. When tickets first came out he couldn't think of spending money on one so he placed the thought of attending a game at the back of his mind. That is until the Cup actually started and the reality of it being on his front doorstep set in. As he watched each game his desire to go grew more and more until he was surfing the net, asking at work and hoping for any chance of getting his hands on one! (He even rode through to town one day on his scooter because he had heard he could get one somewhere!)

And then one day I received an e-mail in my in box: I'm going to the game tomorrow! Will tell all about it tonight. I was so happy for him! And so in awe again of how the Lord knows our desires and would even provide him with a FREE ticket to a game! How awesome is that!

Well he went and here are the photos to prove it:


The Stadium at night.

The Game.

Yip, and this is where he was seated! Can you see the roof top? Phew, that was pretty high up, but it never ruined the experience. He was on a Soccer High for days afterwards. So much so that he wanted me to go to a game too. But that wasn't to be :-(

p.s. if you're wondering how he got a free ticket: a friend blessed him with one after his wife couldn't go with him.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And then there was a quick "Spring" clean.....

After the bathrooms were complete I took the opportunity to do a clean out of the house. I usually do this at this time of year, so it coincided perfectly with the need to clean up all the dust from the renovations. This usually means cleaning out and rearranging all the cupboards around our home. It gives me a chance to throw out what isn't being used and to rearrange items to allow for better access or user friendliness.

During breaks from cleaning these are a few activities which kept us busy:

Making shapes with spaghetti. I got this idea from my friend Kath. She has a lovely little blog journalling her adventures with her boys.

We played number games with our fruit-discovering and comparing how many segments our naartjies had. And of course my creative designer girl thought it would be fun to create shapes with these too! Fruit can become such a great maths apparatus. Jenna has learnt about halves, quarters, sharing, doubling and just general adding and subtracting using fruit.

This was one of the photos I wanted to post last time but it got "stuck" in the camera. Jenna joyfully dancing at her final ballet lesson of the term. So sweet!

And of course we had a co-op with our story telling mom, Carol. She has such a wonderful way of involving all of the children in her stories. Here they are pulling out the "porridge" from a pot for the story that day. Even Michael, who would prefer to ride bikes outside can't resist getting involved when she tells a story ;-)

And here they are having some tactile fun catching feathers which she gently released from the platform above their lounge.

There is always fun to be had when dad gets home and he inspires some creative lego building. I'm still not sure who gets more fun out of it though, Ray or the kids?! 

Back to the in between moments........ Here Jen and Mikey spend some special time with Ray's folks. This was a really special moment for me. Michael takes a while to freely interact with his grandparents when we visit . It's been far easier for them to interact with Jenna's gentle, chatty personality. Adapting to Michael's busy, boisterous ways has taken a little longer. I was so surprised to see him hop up on granny's lap for a story without first having to be convinced. The Lord is really working in my little boys heart. 

The Final Unveiling.

It seems like monthly breaks are becoming the norm around here for me :-) Sorry it's been a while. No real reason, other than life and learning more about my precious family.

After unsuccessful visits to camera shops my clever husband figured out the camera problem on his own-a faulty cord-and now we're back on track with photos.

So now for the long awaited bathroom unveiling:

The light from the window makes it difficult to take a good picture, but I think you can get the basic idea. We installed a large mirror along the wall above the bath-but it's impossible to get a good shot of that!

Now all that's left to do is to buy a nice set of chocolate brown towels and to figure out if it should be curtains, blinds or draped cloth over the window. At this point in time draped cloth is sounding great as I still haven't got around to booking myself into any sewing classes ;-)